Despite a decisive victory over nearest competitor Mike Ciresi, the campaign headquarters of U.S. Senate candidate Mark Dayton was dominated by a decidedly somber mood.
Although the incoming results were overwhelmingly positive for their candidate, Dayton supporters remained cautiously optimistic, reminding themselves that it isn’t over until it’s over.
Dayton won the DFL primary Tuesday night, garnering 42 percent of the votes. Ciresi was second with just over 23 percent, Jerry Janezich had 20 percent and Rebecca Yanish received 15 percent.
Dayton was nonchalant about his victory, dressing casually and paying special attention to greeting friends and volunteers. He emphasized that the most important part of the campaign lies ahead.
“I won the primary in 1992, but I learned that if you win the primary and lose the election it means nothing,” Dayton said. “There are many weeks ahead, full of issues and debates.”
Dayton supporters are confident in their candidate and feel that he can unseat Republican incumbent Sen. Rod Grams.
“Mark Dayton is the best candidate to mirror my beliefs and needs,” said Tom Erickson of Minneapolis.
When asked what Dayton would have to do to defeat Grams, Erickson responded, “Live and breathe. I think Grams is shooting himself in the foot.”
Miles Lord, former attorney general and federal judge, also supports Dayton.
“I think he represents the kind of idealism and principles that I believe in. His campaign is based on ideals and principles, about the opposite of Grams,” Lord said.
For much of the race, Dayton’s main competitor was attorney Mike Ciresi. The primary results reflect a weekend Minneapolis Star Tribune poll showing fading support for Ciresi.
“We ran a campaign based on the issues. If that’s what people want, we’ll win,” Ciresi said.
The Ciresi campaign opted for a more traditional election-night party, where supporters watched the results register, and the hopes for their candidate fade.
While some Ciresi supporters will undoubtedly shift their hopes to Dayton, others will switch their party alliances entirely.
Jerome Abrams of Mendota Heights said he wants to vote against Grams, but is unsure of Dayton.
When asked whether he will support DFL candidates, Abrams said, “Against Rod Grams, probably. Anybody but Rod, but I don’t have a lot of confidence in Mark Dayton.”
Nathan Grand of Maplewood would switch his choice of party, choosing to support Grams in place of Ciresi.
“If Ciresi wasn’t chosen I have to go with Rod Grams. His proposals are the second best,” Grand said.
Dayton now faces a three-way race with Grams and Independence Party candidate James Gibson. While acknowledging the work that lies ahead, Dayton is looking forward.
“It’s something to celebrate because it’s not fun to run against a fellow Democrat,” Dayton said.
Pete Johnson welcomes comments at (612) 627-4070 x3238.